There may be no bigger step into adulthood than getting your own apartment (even if it is shared with a bunch of other students)–but do you know what it takes to get one? Read on my friends, and maybe you, too, can rent your own little slice of real-estate heaven.
- Find some roommates. Unless you’re rolling in scholarship dough or Mom and Dad have offered to foot the bill, you’re probably going to want to split the cost (and responsibility) with a roomie or two (or more). So before you even start the hunt, line up some buddies to live with. George Fox University posted a great, practical article about how to choose a roommate. Trust me, this is a big decision!
- Talk budget. Now that you’ve got your roommates, you need to decide how much you can each afford to spend. If you’ve got a bigger budget, you may opt for a room of your own. To save some cash, you might want to share. Tally up your funds and decide your total monthly budget for rent and utilities, and talk about how many bedrooms/bathrooms you want to get.
- Go On the Hunt. Your roomies are secured, your budget is set, now its time for the fun part–apartment hunting! Scout the area for complexes you might like to live in, and be sure to talk to other students and/or the student housing office for more info. Once you find some spots you like, take tours, check out their online reviews (at sites like apartmentguide.com, forrent.com, or apartments.com), ask questions, and build up your pro/con list.
Ask the Right Questions
Apartments can have a lot of hidden costs and requirements, so while you’re visiting your prospective new places, be sure to ask these crucial questions so you know what you really need–and what you’ll really pay.
- Does your complex allow co-signers?
A co-signer is someone with good credit who signs your lease with you if you can’t qualify to rent an apartment on your own (either because you have a low credit score or you don’t earn enough income). My roommates and I had to have a co-signer (one of our parents volunteered) for our first apartment.
- What is included in the rent?
Are there community amenities like an office, pool, or gym? Does your rent cover some of the utilities? Find out if your rent entitles you to any extras!
- What utilities will we have to pay for?
Will you have to come up with money for things like gas, water, and trash on top of electricity, internet, and phone? Find out what your complex covers with rent and what you’ll have to pay for on your own.
- What is the average cost of those utilities?
Most complexes can give you an idea of how much the above items will cost you.
- How much is the security deposit?
Most rentals require you to put down a security deposit (money to cover any damages that may occur while you live at the apartment). You may get all or some of this money back when you move out, depending on how well you’ve cared for your unit.
(If you have a pet, you will most likely have to pay an additional deposit, and possibly additional rent to keep it in the apartment, so be sure to ask about that, too.)
- How much rent do you require upfront?
In addition to the security deposit, most rentals also require you to pay the first month’s rent before you move in. Some require both the first and the last month’s rent before they’ll hand over the key.
- Do you have any specials going on? Can you work with my budget?
Apartment complexes don’t like to have their units empty for long, so often they will run specials such as one month of free rent or even a monthly discount. If they don’t have a special, you can still make them aware of your rent budget and ask if they can work with you. Just remember–whenever you’re asking for a discount, be nice!
Compare, Contrast, and Sign
Now that you’ve got your questions answered, your tours completed, and your budget worked out, talk to your roommates and figure out which option is the most practical for you. Once you’ve made your choice, and have the funds available, you can arrange to sign your lease–and schedule your move-in day!
June 6th, 2011
I’m just a little late for blog action day, but let’s get on the eco-friendly (and wallet friendly!) bandwagon for a minute anyway, shall we?
I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for a way to save a buck, and live a little healthier, so when I found out about these super cheap and easy ways to clean up your place while still being friendly to Mother Earth, I was pretty stoked–and I immediately thought of you guys!
So next time you’re thinking about cleaning up your place (like as an excuse to postpone studying for finals…) try out these inexpensive green-cleaning ideas! They’re healthier for your body, your bank account, and the environment!
Yes, you can go shell out 4 bucks for the commercial green-clean spray stuff, or you can really go green (and keep some green in your wallet!) by grabbing this stuff:
- Dish soap - Usually both cheap and mild, dish soap is great in the kitchen. Besides dish washing, you can use it diluted to clean counters, or more concentrated to cut grease.
- Vinegar - I am amazed by how awesome vinegar is. (Is that totally dorky? Probably.) It is inexpensive, but it disinfects, shines, and cleans. It can even eat through soap scum and hard water, the stuff you usually have to scrub at forever to clean up!
- Baking soda - Not only is this great for scrubbing when mixed with a little warm water, it can also be used alone to tame unruly smells.
- Salt - So cheap, but great for scrubbing. See below.
(Remember to keep this stuff separate from your cooking-grade products of the same kind, though, just for sanitation’s sake!)
Below are a few examples of how you can use the ingredients above to get your green-cleaning done.
- Toilet - Flush so the water level goes a little lower, then pour undiluted vinegar around the rim. Scrub, flush again, and you’re done. (Resource!)
- Sink/Tub/Shower - For basic cleaning, you can use some vinegar again. If you need to scour away hard water stains or soap scum, try mixing 1/4 cup salt with 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and scrub away. (Resource!)
- Hard Floors - If you have linoleum, you can use a diluted vinegar mixture. Just pour a little vinegar in a bowl or the sink, dilute with water, and mop. You don’t need much vinegar to get the job done! (Resource!)
- Carpet - If your carpet smells a little funky from the pizza your roomie left under the bed for six weeks, fear not–sprinkle some baking soda over the spot, let it rest a minute, and then vacuum it up!
- Smells - Set a little cup or bowl of baking soda in any room or closet with a weird smell (or even your in fridge!). It absorbs nasty smells (see above!). Just remember to rotate fresh baking soda in when it becomes less effective.
October 19th, 2009
When you live “on your own” in the dorms, there are a lot of things you take for granted. At most schools, living on campus means that toilet paper is provided, someone else takes out the trash, and you can borrow silverware from the cafeteria (though I can tell you they usually don’t want you to borrow that silverware).
Living on your own off-campus, in a real apartment, is totally different. Suddenly you look around at your Ikea furniture and otherwise empty apartment and realize how much stuff you don’t have (but need pretty badly). So I threw together a list of things you might not think of, but will definitely need within the first few weeks of apartment life.
Remember, this isn’t your all inclusive everything-you-need list-it’s the list of stuff you’ll probably overlook. For an obsessively detailed everything-you-need list, check out Bed, Bath & Beyond’s insane-but-useful first apartment checklists, part I and part II. And don’t forget to bring furniture.
The Bare Necessities
(a.k.a. If You Buy Nothing Else At Least Get These Things!)
- Toilet paper
- Shower curtain & rings
- Curtains (or at least a sheet to cover the windows)
- Lamp & light bulb(s)
- First-aid kit
You may see these items repeated on other portions of the list in their respective categories. But just remember them!
- Toilet paper
- Shower curtain & rings
- Toilet brush
- First-aid kit
- Oven mitt
- Scrub brush
- Dish soap & regular soap
- Plate, bowl, cup, silverware
- Can opener
- Pots & pans
- Paper towels
- Alarm clock
- Tools (at the very least, nails, a hammer, and a screw driver)
- Power strip
- Extension cord
- Cleaning supplies
- Sewing kit (for buttons that pop off or other minor fixes)
- Laundry basket
…and last (but not least) a good sense of humor!
photo: Cat in a Box by sofa
July 28th, 2008
Just exactly how much does it cost to get your first off-campus apartment? Well, your first month’s costs might be a little bit of a shock if you don’t know what to prepare for–there are a lot of little extras that month that won’t be part of your regular monthly bills (just one more reason to have a roommate or two… or three). Read on to find out what you need to look for to figure out your bills for that first month…
Application - approx $30 to $50 per app
Unlike your parents, your landlord-to-be won’t just take your word that you’re good for the monthly rent-you have to fill out a formal application AND pay a fee so they can check your credit rating. (See, I told you your credit score would be important).
If you don’t fit their monthly income qualifications and need a co-signer like Mom or Dad, he or she will also have to fill out and pay for an application. You (and your roommates if you have any) should foot the bill for your co-signer’s app, too. Since they’re putting their credit score on the line for you, it’s common courtesy.
First Month’s Rent - varies by location and apartment size
Oh the joy of scraping together a month’s worth of rent before you even move in (you’ll probably have to pay this well before your move-in date!). Hopefully you’ve saved your summer earnings, because this could be a sizeable bill.
My first off-campus apartment-a 2br/2ba in San Diego-cost $1,600/month. That meant that I and each of my 3 apartment-mates had to cough up $400/mo. But then again, San Diego is one of the top 10 most expensive cities to rent in, so unless you’re living in New York, LA, or another metropolis, you probably won’t be paying that much.
Check out sites like Rent.com, ForRent.com, and Craigslist.org to get an idea of average pricing for rentals in your area.
Security Deposit - approx same cost as 1 mo rent
This is basically security for the landlord–this fee is for any damage you do to your apartment over the course of living there. If you take good care of your apartment, you will probably get a good portion of this amount back.
Last Month’s Rent - same as 1st mo rent
Most apartment complexes in my area don’t charge this, but every once in a while you’ll come across a lease agreement that requires you to hand over the last month’s rent early, too. Personally, I’d recommend looking for an apartment that doesn’t require this fee upfront.
If you plan to have a pet (I’m talking dog or cat, not a goldfish) you’ll probably have to put down an additional security deposit–AND pay extra each month. The initial deposit will probably be a few hundred dollars, but could be up to $1,000; the monthly amount will depend on your apartment complex.
In addition to monthly bills, utilities and such like gas, electricity, water, trash service, internet, phone service, and cable all tend to require start-up fees. Some cable, phone, and internet companies will waive your start-up and installation fees, so be sure to ask them to when you sign up!
You can probably expect the following amounts for the rest of your start-up fees: For gas and electric, you can approximate about $75/ea, trash service will vary (and is sometimes included in your rent). For more realistic pricing for your area, check with your landlord.
You may also have to pay for a parking sticker or parking space assignment. Usually this is a one-time fee, but in larger cities you may see a monthly fee for parking.
photo: New York Fire Escape by JeryPank
July 14th, 2008